Heidegger and Edwards on Sein-Zum-Tode

The Monist 62 (1):107-118 (1979)

In April, 1976, The Monist published an article by Paul Edwards entitled “Heidegger and Death: A Deflationary Critique.” It demonstrates that even after fifty years of thoughtful consideration, important sections of Heidegger’s Being and Time still suffer serious misinterpretation. As discussion of topics relating to mortality have become an intellectual fad, a serious student of Being and Time would like to examine its analysis of death and to assess critically the contributions which this investigation could make to the current interdisciplinary dialogues on the subject. Before one undertakes this task, however, one must clear the ground by showing that, contrary to Edwards’ position, Heidegger’s insights into human mortality amount to more than a “platitude” disguised by “pretentious and fantastically misleading language,” language which is grounded, in turn, in “a slurring of certain elementary distinctions and a set of perverse redefinitions.” This paper, therefore, critically examines Edwards’ account of Heidegger’s notion of being-towards-death and exhibits the grounds of Edwards’ serious misinterpretation. On the basis of a more accurate interpretation of this death analysis, it then sets forth the philosophically interesting theses about death which the work contains. This paper does not argue that a correct interpretation of the notion of being-towards-death automatically defuses all criticism directed against it; it argues only that one appreciates the genuine philosophical difficulties of the notion only after one grasps as precisely as possible the author’s meaning. The paper closes by enumerating these difficulties.
Keywords Analytic Philosophy  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest  Philosophy of Mind  Philosophy of Science
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ISBN(s) 0026-9662
DOI 10.5840/monist19796218
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